Industry Issues in a Pandemic: The New Normal – Digital/Physical Experience

By June 17, 2020BLOG

Cheeky Cockney Landlord Quote of the Day

“A London Landlord found a lockdown loophole whilst officially not being allowed to open his pub, but understanding that estate agents can sell houses with viewings… So, he is officially putting his pub on the market as of tomorrow, viewings are between 11 am and 11 pm, no appointment necessary, but you must buy a beer while viewing.”

As with all kinds of trauma, humanity tends to follow a pattern of reaction and behaviour.  And the reaction to this pandemic has been typically the same.  

To give you an understanding of this, I want to illustrate our experience of Covid-19 and its impact to the Hospitality Sector, through the 6 stages of grief which is very commonly used to define reaction to trauma. 

Coronavirus Six Stages of Grief

Stage (1) Denial

  • Following the disbelief of international coverage of the Coronavirus across Asia and the UK Public’s disbelief that it could affect us!
  • Although Cambridge University Reported our initial engagement with the Virus took place between September 2019 – December 2019!
  • The first death in the UK came on the 5th March 2020 and set a chain reaction off that engulfed the UK with a level of fear and reality.
  • Culminating in a clumsy announcement by Boris Johnson suggesting that the public should not attend Pubs, Clubs and Theatres – The Drama Begins!!
  • With sales dropping through the floor, many sector businesses dropping down to less than 40% of their business capacity!
  • One last drink before lockdown! 
  • Attitude developed in the beginning was that of dismissal and a self-ratified belief that this will all go away in 3 or 4 weeks, supported by previous statements from heads of state, both national and international.

 

Stage (2) Anger

  • The Industry was in an uproar, with the feeling that our Prime Minister had turned his back on the sector, giving unprecedented instruction to avoid Pubs, Clubs, Bars, Theatres.
  • During the initial period, we were led to believe the lockdown would be short-lived.
  • After much backlash, the Government finally decided to officially lock down the UK on 23rd March 2020 with Pubs, Clubs and Theatres being closed.
  • Anger, frustration and fear from the uncertainty on what was going to happen to their business ensued, and the push for further support off the back of a weak budget from the Chancellor.

 

Stage (3) Bargaining

  • Daily government updates advising on developments, and the support to be provided was initially reassuring, but questions soon followed after many gaps left, resulting in various people falling through the cracks or not being applicable for a particular type of support (if any of them)
  • Questions were asked
  • Campaigns were raised
  • Voices were Elevated

This bargaining behaviour continued throughout and the debate grew stronger, and remains more so now than ever before, with a large deficit in support still clear for all to see, yet now the government aren’t as forthcoming or reassuring… the haste to re-engage the economy supersedes the need to support those businesses who will struggle against the balance between public health and business viability… all fused around the science and medicine

  • How can we do this?
  • What about this?
  • How about if we do it this way?

 

Stage (4) Depression

With the media’s continuous display of doom and gloom, some well-placed, some scare-mongering and some misinformation, alongside the light at the end of the tunnel being pulled into the distance with every lockdown review… 4 weeks turned to 6… turned to 8… with further reports of reduction in furlough support, landlords banging on their doors (despite the government’s efforts to protect commercial properties from court action), increased crime and domestic violence with consistent reports that society as we know it has ceased… and that Covid-19 will change human and societal behaviour forever… aided by the hopelessness that was felt across the sector with an acceptance of a dystopian future.

Questions being asked:

  • How do I look after my Staff?
  • How do I pay my bills? My Landlord
  • What support is available?

 

Stage (5) Acceptance

International reports of re-engagement lead to the sector gaining renewed confidence, people started focusing on remodelling their businesses, many stopped looking at support and focusing on self-sufficiency!

  • Cost Efficiency’s
  • Changing Business Models
  • Focus on Breaking Even/Surviving
  • Takeaway, Delivery & Off Sales

 

Stage (6) Hope

Finally reaching this stage of the pandemic, following 11 weeks of what seems like an eternity of waiting and wanting we are now on the cusp of moving towards our new normal. But there is still much work to be done in both operational guidance and rebuilding consumer confidence whilst balancing public health against protecting our economy… and resisting the potential second wave.. we are now forewarned, forearmed and hindsight, for once can play a useful part, if we learn and get this right….

We are now asking!

  • Show me how?
  • When can we re-engage?
  • What are the measures we are working with? Show me the guidance?

 

So, what does the future hold in terms of our Industry?

Social & Cultural Impact during Lockdown – Labelled by some as one of the Biggest Psychological experiments in the world!

Our health is our wealth. Right now, our collective health is exposing insights into modern culture in extremely eye-opening ways. 

Coronanxiety is real and revealing/highlighting important phenomenon’s in our disconnected societies. 

It’s causing people to question global connectivity and inspiring people to seek self-sufficiency closer to home. 

It’s resulting in young people taking matters into their own hands to make the most of the situation by communicating virtually in creative ways. 

With this, we see how important transparent communications is, and how a significant a quick and simple ‘mental boost’ can be.

Shortly Employers will likely have to make important decisions in the coming weeks (if not already) about the future and welfare of their workforce.

We need to put people first!

As uncertainty continues with regard to lockdown and isolation policies, many are contemplating how we might be able to provide people with entertainment that they can consume or interact with safely, in the coming weeks and months, forming a new normal and future for the sector!

How could you create an interactive virtual ‘mass event or NTE experience?’

Small house parties and raves have been bubbling under the surface of society for many years now, but the current situation under lockdown has intensified this, as young people desperately search for alternatives, and continue in a struggle to cope with the current restrictions on their lives due to the pandemic.

DIY alternatives are being organised by opportunists, using unscrupulous suppliers who are purely focused on financial gain, with no regard for the safety of those attending. 

Thousands of promoters and venues remain closed to save lives and the NHS, struggling to maintain their businesses while a small minority are now running illegal events jeopardising the hard work and sacrifice of others. Now we are faced with a growing market for virtual experience, within this there is some stand out products, some which encompass two-way virtual experiences which allow the audience and the performer to interact virtually, and now the development of the next generation of VR Night Time Economy, with many harnessing the ability to develop a full experience alongside the delivery of drinks and food to your doorstep.

The Industry is very clear that there is an opportunity to increase capacity for business by developing a parallel virtual and physical business model.

Some would suggest that this amplifies the opportunity for NTE sector businesses to attract increased trade through streaming, allowing for nominal operational costs to be transferred midweek reducing the risk and adopting a physical experience during the weekend. 

It could also mean that businesses would be able to run virtual and physical events across a range of markets on the same night.

When posed with the question on consumer confidence, I have to admit several weeks back the initial feeling was that customers would have reservations.

Almost 11 weeks into this crisis lockdown and I believe the narrative has changed, and the millennials of the world are keen to re-engage, voting with their feet, be it at the moment for many an illegal experience.

So how will this “Dystopian Future” look

For Business Owners, Operators and Staff it will be like starting a new job with remnants of the old ways of working.

Social Distancing will form an uncomfortable renewed personal space dynamic amongst staff and customers, bringing rise to pinch points, and once intimate spaces will become devoid of customer interest.

Challenges around customer behaviour, illness becoming synonymous with intoxication and anti-social behaviour creating yet more barriers for patrons to overcome.

Clinical cleaning regimes, isolation screens, contactless payments, clinical waste management, table service, no dancing, singers at 6m social distancing to perform!

Generating support mechanisms for Well-being and mental health, whilst fighting for financial survival in a minefield of eligibility and considered debt for a decision that has been taken out of your hands.

Many of the spaces we are discussing now do not have the money to accommodate for change Especially 11 weeks into lockdown when they have been closed!

If there is one message, I would like to give everyone on this call, is the importance of working collaboratively alongside the sector, with the view that this is a ‘new normal’, and we are collectively going to make mistakes.

And the attitude in everyone’s approach is key here for us to grow and learn together!

Born from this chaos has been some amazing innovations and Initiatives.

Track & Trace

100% Capacity Guide – Melvin Benn Live Nation – looking to pitch to Scottish Government under Track and Trace the ability to deliver large scale mass gatherings before the end of 2020.

Sypro

Artificial Intelligence sensors which can measure the average Social Distancing space within an audience for a predetermined time.

Measuring Head and shoulders and identifying pinch points and high traffic areas so that you can systematically manage your audience in Realtime.

I just want to end by saying this!

Our Industry throughout this crisis has faced some huge challenges, which it continues to try to mould and work to suit its needs. The level of entrepreneurial spirit and drive that it takes to flourish and grow even in the face of adversity, stands testament to each and every individual that has put their heart and soul into this Sector!

If there is one positive that we can take from this crisis that I believe will benefit the future of this sector is:

  • We have never communicated as much to each other, and in turn, other sectors as we have during this period, and it must continue.
  • Government & Key Stakeholders have had to get to grips with this sector to make key decisions, and I believe in good faith it is the start of decision-makers realising the value of our sector, both economically and culturally!

It makes me very proud to represent the businesses within the Night-Time Economy and Events industries, and the sector-wide action to support communities renews my drive in the fight to protect the industry that has given us so much!

Thank you to the IOL for the opportunity and to Dan Davies, David Lucas and Sue Nelson for your continued support during this crisis!

 

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